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John Perry Barlow

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Title: John Perry Barlow  
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Subject: Electronic Frontier Foundation, Pronoia (psychology), Nation.1, Dave's Picks Volume 8, Dick's Picks Volume 32
Collection: 1947 Births, American Activists, American Anarchists, American Bloggers, American Essayists, American Libertarians, American Lyricists, Berkman Fellows, Electronic Frontier Foundation, European Graduate School Faculty, Grateful Dead, Internet Activists, Living People, People from Sublette County, Wyoming, Poets from Wyoming, Psychedelic Drug Advocates, Ranchers from Wyoming, Wesleyan University Alumni, Wired (Magazine) People, Writers from Colorado Springs, Colorado, Wyoming Republicans
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John Perry Barlow

John Perry Barlow
At his home in California, USA, December 2010
Born (1947-10-03) October 3, 1947
Sublette County, Wyoming, United States
Occupation lyricist, essayist
Nationality American
Period 1971–95 (lyrics)
1990–present (essays)
Subject Internet (essays)

John Perry Barlow (born October 3, 1947) is an American poet and essayist, a retired Wyoming cattle rancher, and a cyberlibertarian[1] political activist who has been associated with both the Democratic and Republican parties. He is also a former lyricist for the Grateful Dead and a founding member of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Since May 1998, he has been a Fellow at Harvard University's Berkman Center for Internet and Society. He has been identified by Time magazine as one of the "School of Rock: 10 Supersmart Musicians".[2]


  • Biography 1
  • Politics 2
  • Current work 3
  • Writing 4
  • Notes 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


Born in Sublette County, Wyoming, Barlow attended elementary school in a one-room schoolhouse. He was a student at the Fountain Valley School in Colorado. There Barlow met Bob Weir, who would later join the music group the Grateful Dead. Weir and Barlow maintained contact throughout the years; a frequent visitor to Timothy Leary's facility in Millbrook, New York, Barlow introduced the musical group to Leary in 1967. In 1969, Barlow graduated with high honors in comparative religion from Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, and spent two years traveling. In 1971 he began practicing animal husbandry in Cora, Wyoming, at his family's Bar Cross Land and Livestock Company. He sold that business in 1988.

The seeds of the Barlow–Weir collaboration were sown at a Grateful Dead show at the Capitol Theater in Port Chester, New York, in February 1971. Until then, Weir had mostly worked with resident Dead lyricist Robert Hunter. Hunter preferred that those who sang his songs stick to his "canonical" lyrics rather than improvising additions or rearranging words. A feud erupted backstage over a couplet in "Sugar Magnolia" from the band's most recent release (most likely "She can dance a Cajun rhythm/Jump like a Willys in four-wheel drive"), culminating in a disgruntled Hunter summoning Barlow and telling him "take him (Weir)—he's yours".[3] In the fall of 1971, with a deal for a solo album in hand and only two songs completed, Weir and Barlow began to write together for the first time. Note: Capitol Theater New York Shows from February 1971 have no changes to lyrics noted above, all shows are on

The twosome hammered out such enduring songs as "Cassidy", "Mexicali Blues", and "Black Throated Wind", all three of which would remain in the repertoires of the Grateful Dead and Weir's varied solo projects for years to come. Other songs to emerge from the Weir-Barlow collaboration include "Let It Grow", "The Music Never Stopped", "Estimated Prophet", "I Need A Miracle", "Lost Sailor", "Saint of Circumstance", "Hell In A Bucket", and "Throwing Stones". Barlow also collaborated with Grateful Dead keyboardists Brent Mydland then later Vince Welnick.

In 1986 Barlow joined The WELL online community, then known for a strong Deadhead presence. He served on the company's board of directors for several years. In 1990, Barlow founded the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) along with fellow digital-rights activists John Gilmore and Mitch Kapor. As a founder of EFF, Barlow helped publicize the Secret Service raid on Steve Jackson Games. Barlow's involvement is later documented in the The Hacker Crackdown: Law and Disorder on the Electronic Frontier (1992) by Bruce Sterling.[4] EFF later sponsored the ground-breaking case Steve Jackson Games, Inc. v. United States Secret Service. Steve Jackson Games won the case in 1993.

He married Elaine Parker Barlow, with whom he had three daughters: Amelia Rose, Anna Winter, and Leah Justine. Elaine and John separated in 1992. He was engaged to Dr. Cynthia Horner, whom he met at a convention center. She died in 1994 from a heart arrhythmia, apparently caused by undetected viral cardiomyopathy.[5]

Barlow was a good friend of John F. Kennedy, Jr.[6]


Barlow is a former chairman of the Dick Gregory, or John Hagelin, have been protest votes."[10] Barlow said that year he was "voting for John Kerry, though with little enthusiasm."[10]

Current work

Barlow currently serves as vice-chairman of the Freedom of the Press Foundation.

He is a Fellow with the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School and Diamond Management & Technology Consultants, and a member of the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences. He spends much of his time on the road, lecturing and consulting about civil rights, freedom of speech, the state of the internet and the Electronic Frontier Foundation. He delivered lectures and panel discussions at TWiT Live,[13] TedxHamburg, Hamburg (Germany),[14] Greenfest SF,[15] Civitas (Norwegian think tank),[16] Internet Society (NY Chapter, New York),[17] the USC Center on Public Diplomacy,[18] and the European Graduate School (EGS), Saas-Fee, Switzerland.[19] On September 16, 2012, he presented at TEDxSantaCruz, in Santa Cruz, California.[20]

Barlow also serves on the advisory boards of Clear Path International, TTI/Vanguard, the stakeholder engagement non-profit Future 500 and the global company Touch Light Media[21] founded by Anita Ondine.

He is listed as a Managing Partner at Algae Systems[22] of Nevada, a company dedicated to commercializing a novel method for growing microalgae offshore as a biofuel feedstock. He is listed as a member of the faculty of the European Graduate School (EGS), in Saas-Fee, Wallis, Switzerland.

Barlow sits on the advisory board of the Marijuana Policy Project.[23]


From 1971 until 1995, Barlow wrote lyrics for the Grateful Dead, mostly through his relationship with Bob Weir. Among others, Barlow's songs include "Cassidy" (about Neal Cassady and Cassidy Law),[24] "Estimated Prophet", "Black-Throated Wind", "Hell in a Bucket", "Mexicali Blues", "The Music Never Stopped", and "Throwing Stones".

His writings include "A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace", which was written in response to the enactment of the Communications Decency Act in 1996 as the EFF saw the law as a threat to the independence and sovereignty of cyberspace. He argued that the cyberspace legal order would reflect the ethical deliberation of the community instead of the coercive power that characterized real-space governance.[25] Since online "identities have no bodies," they found it inappropriate to obtain order in the cyberspace by physical coercion.[26] Instead ethics, enlightened self-interest and the commonwealth were the elements they believed to create a civilization of the Mind in Cyberspace.[25] Later, articles such as "The Economy of Ideas" were also widely circulated in providing a vision for human creativity online.

Barlow has written extensively for Wired magazine, as well as The New York Times, Nerve, and Communications of the ACM. In his writings, he explained the wonder of the Internet. The Internet to him is more than a computer network. It is a place that he called an "electronic frontier".[1] "He frequently wrote in language that echoed Henry Stanley's African diary. ‘Imagine discovering a continent so vast that it may have no end to its dimensions. Imagine a new world with more resources than all our future greed might exhaust, more opportunities than there will ever be entrepreneurs enough to exploit, and a peculiar kind of real estate that expands with development. Imagine a place where trespassers leave no footprints, where goods can be stolen infinite number of times and yet remain in the possession of their original owners, where business you never heard of can own the history of your personal affairs.’"[27] He wanted to encourage and provoke youngsters to explore the cyberspace through his writing.

Barlow has also returned to writing lyrics, most recently collaborating with The String Cheese Incident's mandolinist and vocalist Michael Kang, including their song "Desert Dawn." Barlow is often seen at String Cheese Incident concerts mixing with the fans and members in the band.

He has also recently collaborated with the Chicago-based jamband Mr. Blotto on their release Barlow Shanghai. He is an advisor to the project.[28]


  1. ^ a b Goldsmith & Wu 2006, p. 17.
  2. ^ Kim, Wook (6 September 2012), "School of Rock: 10 Supersmart Musicians", Time (magazine), retrieved 23 September 2012  .
  3. ^ McNally, Dennis (2002), A Long Strange Trip: The Inside History of the Grateful Dead, Broadway, p. 394 .
  4. ^ Sterling, Bruce (1992). The Hacker Crackdown, law and disorder on the electronic frontier at Project Gutenberg.
  5. ^ How Barlow met his fiancée at a convention center, and what happened afterwards, in Barlow, John Perry (October 17, 2003). Convention, episode 74. This American Life, aired August 30, 1997, Chicago Public Radio and Ira Glass.  Min. 37.
  6. ^ Barlow, John Perry (July 2, 2003), American Morning (transcript) (interview), CNN .
  7. ^ "New York city speakers: Barlow", Conference (PDF), Personal democracy, Jun 3–5, 2010 .
  8. ^ The Colbert Report, March 26, 2007 .
  9. ^ Barlow, John Perry (interviewee); Jayakar, Roshni (interviewer) (December 6, 2000). "What stops free flow of information is dangerous". Business Today (Living Media India). Archived from the original on 2007-10-09. Retrieved 2007-11-12. 
  10. ^ a b c "Who's Getting Your Vote?". Reason. November 2004. Retrieved 2008-10-27. 
  11. ^ Goldsmith & Wu 2006, p. 18.
  12. ^ Goldsmith & Wu 2006, p. 19.
  13. ^ Barlow, John Perry;  
  14. ^ Barlow, John Perry (2010-05-27). "The Power of the Internet". Hamburg,  
  15. ^ Amorim, João;  
  16. ^ Barlow, John Perry (2009-04-24). "Internet, Property and the Freedom of Speech".  
  17. ^ Barlow, John Perry (2008-10-27). "The First Internet Election".  
  18. ^ Barlow, John Perry;  
  19. ^ Barlow, John Perry (2006-06-12). "Independence Declaration of Cyberspace".  
  20. ^ "Open". Santa Cruz, CA, US: TEDx. 2012-09-15. Retrieved 2012-09-16. 
  21. ^ Touch light media .
  22. ^ Algæ systems .
  23. ^ VIP, MPP .
  24. ^ Barlow, John Perry. "Cassidy's Tale". Literary Kicks: Beat Connections in Music. Retrieved 2007-11-12. 
  25. ^ a b Goldsmith & Wu 2006, p. 20.
  26. ^ Barlow, John Perry (1996-02-08). "A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace". Retrieved 2007-02-09. 
  27. ^ Goldsmith & Wu 2006, pp. 17–8.
  28. ^ (official website) 


  • Goldsmith, Jack; Wu, Tim (February 24, 2006),  

External links

  • John Perry Barlow at DMOZ
  • "Barlow Home(stead) Page". Electronic Frontier Foundation. Retrieved 2010-11-27. 
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